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Электронная библиотека .: Детективы .: По, Эдгар Алан .: The Masque of the Red Death


По, Эдгар Алан

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Edgar Allan Poe. The Masque of the Red Death


The "Red Death" had long devastated the country. No
pestilence had ever been so fatal, or so hideous. Blood
was its Avatar and its seal--the redness and the horror of
blood. There were sharp pains, and sudden dizziness, and
then profuse bleeding at the pores, with dissolution. The
scarlet stains upon the body and especially upon the face
of the victim, were the pest ban which shut him out from
the aid and from the sympathy of his fellow-men. And
the whole seizure, progress and termination of the
disease, were the incidents of half an hour.
But the Prince Prospero was happy and dauntless and
sagacious. When his dominions were half depopulated,
he summoned to his presence a thousand hale and light-hearted
friends from among the knights and dames of his.court, and
with these retired to the deep seclusion of one
of his castellated abbeys. This was an extensive and
magnificent structure, the creation of the prince's own
eccentric yet august taste. A strong and lofty wall girdled
it in. This wall had gates of iron. The courtiers, having
entered, brought furnaces and massy hammers and
welded the bolts. They resolved to leave means neither of
ingress nor egress to the sudden impulses of despair or of
frenzy from within. The abbey was amply provisioned.
With such precautions the courtiers might bid defiance to
contagion. The external world could take care of itself. In
the meantime it was folly to grieve, or to think. The prince
had provided all the appliances of pleasure. There were
buffoons, there were improvisatori, there were ballet-dancers,
there were musicians, there was Beauty, there
was wine. All these and security were within. Without
was the "Red Death".
It was towards the close of the fifth or sixth month of his
seclusion, and while the pestilence raged most furiously
abroad, that the Prince Prospero entertained his thousand
friends at a masked ball of the most unusual
magnificence.
It was a voluptuous scene, that masquerade. But first let
me tell of the rooms in which it was held. These were
seven--an imperial suite. In many palaces, however, such
suites form a long and straight vista, while the folding
doors slide back nearly to the walls on either hand, so that
the view of the whole extent is scarcely impeded. Here
the case was very different, as might have been expected
from the duke's love of the bizarre. The apartments were
so irregularly disposed that the vision embraced but little
more than one at a time. There was a sharp turn at every
twenty or thirty yards, and at each turn a novel effect. To
the right and left, in the middle of each wall, a tall and
narrow Gothic window looked out upon a closed corridor
which pursued the windings of the suite. These windows
were of stained glass whose colour varied in accordance
with the prevailing hue of the decorations of the chamber
into which it opened. That at the eastern extremity was
hung, for example in blue--and vividly blue were its
windows



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